My APW group has been getting together monthly-or-more to discuss writing and marriage and a bunch of other stuff. So we were sitting around at the bar last Wednesday and I mentioned that Mark and I have a rule where we get out of bed at the same time in the morning. Then I mentioned that we had attempted to develop a rule where one of us did not use more than 5 utensils when she made dinner because the other of us was sick of cleaning an excessive number of dishes.
At which point, Jessica looks at me and says, "you guys have a lot of rules." I got, naturally, immediately defensive, but then she said, "it's funny." In a non-judgmental way. Because she's a member of Team Practical.
So I thought about it, and we do have a lot of rules. For starters, we have a bedtime, and as a general rule (with a few exceptions, and several arguments) we go to bed at the same time. Then there is the aforementioned getting-up-at-the-same-time rule. Most of our friends don't have that rule - and they find it weird. I could leave for work an hour later than my husband, giving me an hour (or more) more sleep in the morning, if I wanted it. But at different points in our relationships, both of us have been the one running out the door to earn money while the other person hit the snooze button or grumbled at them for waking them up. It makes both of us resentful, and so, we get up at the same time.
We have the standard, "you cook, I'll do the dishes" rule. This rule seemed very fair to me until my husband pointed out that I was constantly cooking to get out of doing the dishes and that wasn't fair. So I had to start backing off, or doing some more dishes. I've done a little of both.
We have some rules that don't take, or that we would like to impose as individuals. Mark has attempted to make rules about not leaving my shoes everywhere, but as I sit here typing, there are four pairs in a four foot radius of me, and I'm at the dining room table. I tried to make a rule about not snacking on anything but salad before dinner. That lasted about as long as the first bag of salad I bought. It's not surprising that a rule won't stick unless we both believe in it.
I think that rules are good for relationships, as long as you don't have too many of them. They are a good way to state your values and make sure that you are both getting what you need from your spouse. I have a friend whose partner likes to work late in the evenings and sleep late in the morning - the consequence being that they don't spend much time together, which can make a person feel undervalued, like they aren't as important as your sleep. I have another friend who has a rule with her husband about what financial spending they can and can't get angry about - he doesn't get angry about how much clothing she buys, she doesn't get angry about how often he goes out for lunch. I firmly believe that it's this kind of agreed-upon give-and-take of creating rules that helps couples get what they need from each other.
I think that rules can also be tricky, because at the end of the day, you have to remember that you are married to your spouse, not to the rule, and fights can get ugly when you are yelling, "it's your turn!" or "that's the deal!" or "but the rule is X!"
I'm very curious as to what other people's rules might be, and also how you work your bedtime/getting out of bed issues in your relationship.